The pope then recalled the visit of John Paul II to the island, calling it “a breath of fresh air to Cuba”.
During his speech Benedict repeated that he traveled to Cuba as a pilgrim of Charity.
“Following in the footsteps of countless pilgrims down the centuries, I too wish to go to El Cobre to kneel at the feet of the Mother of God, to thank her for her concern for all her Cuban children, and to ask her to guide the future of this beloved nation in the ways of justice, peace, freedom and reconciliation.”
Benedict XVI also spoke about the economic crisis that has affected much of the world. He said overcoming this crisis requires “upright men and women of firm moral convictions, with noble and strong values who will not be manipulated by dubious interests”.
“I am convinced that Cuba, at this moment of particular importance in its history, is already looking to the future, and thus is striving to renew and broaden its horizons. Of great help in this enterprise will be the fine patrimony of spiritual and moral values which fashioned the nation’s true identity.”
Benedict XVI then briefly met with Raul Castro in an airport lounge. Afterward, a military parade sent off the pope to his next visit at the residence of the archbishop of Santiago de Cuba. He then celebrated Mass at the Plaza of Antonio Maceo in honor of 400th anniversary of Our Lady of Charity, the patroness of Cuba.